Cheese and Herb Stuffed Chicken Bundles
With Polenta Cakes, Cheesy Herb Potato Stacks and Marinated, Cubed Salad on Parmesan Crisps
Normally, I try to not remake an old favorite, but rather try new and amazing dishes. I had a craving, however, for my chicken bundles, of which I believe I have two differing versions previously posted, one of which is my bacon belted chicken bundle, and wanted to serve it with different sides. I realize that I tend to stick with my tried and true favorites, all the same way, so I decided to be adventurous and try something decidedly new. And hopefully improved.
The best part about this meal, as a whole, is that it was simple and quick to prepare. My partner in culinary crime, Miss Maria, helped with this dish, and was invaluable. Without her input, I would not have realized what improvements could be implemented.
Let's get to it. Time for all of that soon.
Here is my starting line-up:
1 package of boneless, skinless chicken thighs (I prefer chicken thighs over chicken breasts because thighs are more tender and moist, and they are easier to use than chicken breasts)
1 - 2 packages (12 slices) prosciutto
salt and pepper
3 sprigs rosemary and several sprigs thyme, leaves stripped from the stems and finely chopped, one quarter separated
6 full leaves sage
6 leaves fresh basil, chiffonade
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated and separated
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 cup your favorite Italian cheeses (I used a combination of mozzarella, parmigiano, and fontina, as well) + 1/3 cup of the cheese blend
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 cucumber, cubed
2 roma tomatoes, seeded and cubed
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
3 tablespoons + 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar (or, your favorite vinegar)
3-4 new red potatoes, round as possible, to fit into a muffin tin
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
First, in a medium bowl, add the ricotta and all but 1/3 cup of the other cheeses. Set that third cup of cheese aside for the potato stacks.
Add all but one quarter of the fresh finely chopped rosemary, thyme and basil and incorporate into the cheese mixture. Add half of the finely chopped garlic along with salt and black pepper to the cheese mixture and incorporate thoroughly. Set the mixture into the refrigerator.
Unpackage the chicken thighs and set on a clean plastic or wooden cutting board separated from all of the other ingredients. Cleanliness first!
Lay out the chicken thighs. Salt and pepper both sides and then lay the thighs smooth side down. Using a teaspoon, if possible, add two teaspoons of filling to the center of each thigh and spread the mixture. Place each thigh over two strips of prosciutto that have been placed on the cutting board, slightly overlapping. Roll the chicken thighs in the prosciutto and place a sage leaf on top of each bundle. *My tribute to Saltimbocca, in a way. Also, it looks nice and adds a distinct flavor to the prosciutto. Finish all six bundles and set aside.
Have a baking sheet lined with foil and with a cooling rack placed atop the pan. Spray the rack with non-stick spray. You will be searing the chicken bundles and finish cooking them in the oven at 375 degrees.
Next, thinly slice the potatoes into discs. A mandolin is ok, but know that the slices may be too thin and bake into chips rather than become cohesive with the cheese, garlic and herbs. With that said, add the remaining fresh garlic and herbs to the cheese mixture and toss. Spray six spaces in a muffin tin. Place a potato disc into each sprayed space and sprinkle a little cheese over disc. Add another potato disc, sprinkle more cheese and repeat until the discs become stacks. Top with parmesan cheese, which will crisp up and brown as they bake. Place the muffin tin into the oven and bake 25 minutes. Your nose will tell you when they are done, as you will smell the parmesan and the garlic and herbs throughout your kitchen.
While the potatoes are baking, make a vinaigrette. Add the remaining evoo, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper, garlic, stone ground mustard and whisk vigorously to incorporate all of the ingredients. Add the onions, tomatoes and cucumber to the vinaigrette and store in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve.
Now, follow the directions for your Polenta. I like to add a little extra virgin olive oil and/or butter and toast the corn meal before adding the liquid. Add the garlic and herbs just as you are ending the toasting process to release their oils and then add the fluid, whether that is water or chicken or vegetable stock. Also stir in some parmesan cheese to give it a little added salty bite. So good! When the polenta thickens and is ready, spread it out in a shallow baking pan lined with parchment paper. Set it aside to cool. You will be using it later.
While the polenta is cooling and the potato stacks are baking, line a shallow baking sheet or pan with parchment. Make a mound with half of the parmesan on one side of the pan in the center and repeat on the other side. You will be melting the parm mounds until they flatten out and are bubbly, about six minutes. Remove the pan and allow the parmesan discs, which I call crisps, to cool a few minutes. Remove them, too, and set aside on a small plate.
Back to the chicken! In a large skillet, add the 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and heat over medium-high heat. When the oil begins to ripple, add the chicken thighs, sage leaf side down first. Do not crowd the bundles; perhaps three or four at a time. You are going to sear the bundles about three or four minutes per side, until the prosciutto begins to caramelize and crisp up. Do not be alarmed, some of the cheese may drip out into the skillet. It happens. Remove the bundles once seared and place them on the rack covered baking pan. When the potato stacks are done, remove those and place the chicken to the oven to finish off cooking. About 12 - 15 minutes. Again, cheese will probably drip out onto the baking pan. Don't sweat it. There is plenty of cheesy goodness left inside.
While the chicken is finishing baking, use a biscuit cutter to cut discs out of the polenta, thus making polenta cakes. I roasted some cherry tomatoes I'd sprinkled salt and pepper and dried basil over and so added them to the top of the polenta cakes, along with a sprinkle of fresh basil ribbons. Next, I used a knife to gently remove the cooling potato stacks from the muffin tin and placed them on my serving plates. Repeat with the polenta cakes. When the chicken is done, gently lean a chicken bundle against the polenta cake. Finally, place a parmesan crisp onto your serving plates, and using a slotted spoon or fork, top that with the cubed marinated salad.
You are ready to serve your meal!
Following are some photos. Enjoy them!
My learning tip for this is that using two strips of prosciutto adds quite a salt factor to the chicken bundles. If you can use just one, and perhaps secure it with a toothpick, you will lessen the saltiness tremendously. In my previous post, I wrapped it with one thin slice of bacon. That would do the trick, as well. I say make it your own and wrap it with whatever you like!
Thank You for your time and consideration!